Home > Haven (Relentless #5)(2)

Haven (Relentless #5)(2)
Author: Karen Lynch

“Brendan and I will choose the Betas over the next month or so,” Maxwell said. “The gathering will give us a good opportunity to observe candidates. I’ll send word out to the rest of the pack, and anyone here who is interested in being a candidate can let Brendan know after the meeting.”

I saw Francis, Kyle, and Shawn exchange smiles, and I had an image of the three of them as Betas. Francis was four years older than I was, and he’d been trying to boss Pete and me around since we were little kids. I didn’t even want to imagine how life would be if he outranked me.

Kyle and Shawn were tight with Francis, and they used to look down on us, too, until Pete and I killed a pack of crocotta last fall with Nikolas and Chris. Since then, the Walsh cousins were a lot friendlier. That didn’t mean I wanted them telling me what to do, though.

As soon as the meeting ended, Pete came over to me. “Multiple Betas? Wonder what that will be like.”

I looked at Francis, Kyle, and Shawn who were the first ones to go to Brendan. “Not good if those three are in.”

He lowered his voice. “Dad and Brendan know how Francis is. They won’t choose him if they think he’ll cause trouble. And you have to admit, he does care about the pack.”

I let out a puff of air. “Well, all I care about right now is a boat and a certain redhead I’m meeting up with at Justin’s party. You ready to head out?”

Maxwell had pulled strings to get Pete and me back into school after we’d been gone for a month, and the two of us had put in a lot of nights working on makeup assignments for credit. On top of everything else, it had left no time for dating. When Justin Reid had invited us to spend the afternoon on his father’s sailboat, followed by a party at his place, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to make up for lost time.

“What redhead?”

“Taylor White. She’s been trying to hook up with me since March.”

Pete shook his head. “Lucky bastard.”

I grinned because I was feeling pretty good today. I had my Mustang, I was no longer under house arrest, and I had a gorgeous redhead waiting for me.

We headed for the door, but I came up short when a heavy hand landed on my shoulder. I looked back to see Maxwell and sighed inwardly. I’d been so close to escaping.

“Where are you two off to in such a hurry?”

“Going out on Justin’s boat,” Pete said.

I half expected Maxwell to tell us we were still grounded. Instead, he said, “You forgot to tell Brendan you want to be considered for the Beta program.”

My mouth fell open, and I didn’t try to hide my surprise. Me, a Beta? I’d just graduated from high school. Not to mention, Maxwell had spent the last six months telling me I had to grow up and start behaving like an adult. Was this another one of his tests?

Pete scoffed. “We don’t have a shot at being a Beta over some of those other guys.”

Maxwell motioned for us to follow him into the kitchen. He was wearing his lecture face, and I bit back a groan.

“You two have Alpha blood in your veins, and one day, one of you could take my place. Being a Beta is a good way for you to start learning to lead this pack.”

Whoa! Back up. Alpha? Lead the pack? What the hell was he talking about?

I couldn’t hold back the laugh that burst from me. “Are you serious?”

Maxwell’s brows drew together. “Do I look like I’m joking?”

“Last month you told me I was so slow in training that my grandmother could outrun me, and now you think I could be Alpha?” I shook my head. “No offense, but yeah, I think you’re joking with us.”

He crossed his arms. “I didn’t say you’d be ready for that job anytime soon. Neither of you have shown many Alpha traits, but you’re still young. There’s hope for you if you don’t screw up again.”

I looked at Pete, who seemed as shocked as I was by his father’s statements. Obviously, this was all news to him, too.

“What if I don’t want to lead the pack?” I had some ideas about what I wanted to do with my life, and none of them included being Alpha of the pack. Or Beta, for that matter.

Maxwell shrugged. “Some of the best leaders are the ones who don’t want it. They do it because they know they are the right person to do the job. They do it because their pack needs them.”

He turned to go back to the living room. “I expect to see your names on the Beta list.”

“Great,” I muttered after he left the kitchen. “Let’s go, Pete.”

Most of the members had cleared out when we went to find Brendan, except for a few stragglers talking about Maxwell’s announcement. Brendan didn’t appear surprised when we grudgingly asked him to add us to the list. If anything, he looked amused. I was glad someone was enjoying this.

“I wouldn’t mind being a Beta,” Pete said after we’d climbed into the Mustang. “But Dad’s probably making us do this as some lesson about responsibility. No one is going to pick you and me over the older guys on that list.”

I relaxed a little. “You’re probably right.”

Turning the key in the ignition, I smiled at the smooth rumble of the powerful V8 engine. Satisfaction and pride filled me at the work I’d done on the car. Until I’d started restoring the Mustang, I’d never given much thought to working on cars. But now that she was done, I felt a little pang of disappointment that I wouldn’t be working on her tomorrow. There was nothing like bringing a classic car back to life.

There was also nothing like being free for the first time in months. Tonight was all about having fun. Tomorrow I’d worry about the Beta program, the pack gathering, and the unmated females who’d be hoping to snare a mate.

I suppressed a shudder at the last thought and put the car in reverse.

Emma

“Here you go, miss.”

“Thank you,” I said quietly as the shuttle driver set my suitcases on the landing at the top of the steps. I reached into my carry-on for my wallet, but he waved it off.

“The woman who arranged your ride took care of it all,” he said before he headed back down the stairs. “Have a nice stay.”

I watched him get into the blue airport shuttle van and drive off before I pulled a set of keys from my bag and faced the door. Taking a deep breath, I unlocked the door and pushed it open. My hands trembled from nervous excitement when I grabbed the handle of my biggest suitcase and rolled it into the apartment.

My new home.

I dragged the second suitcase inside and closed the solid steel door, sliding the deadbolt home. Dropping my carry-on beside the luggage, I went to explore the apartment.

The first room I found was the kitchen, and as soon as I saw it, nostalgia filled me. The pale-yellow walls and white cabinets took me back to the kitchen in the house my family had owned at Virginia Beach. We’d go there in the summer, and every morning, I’d make French toast for my sister Marie and me, and then we’d go hang out on the dunes. She loved to collect shells and play Robinson Crusoe while I painted. I wondered if she still…

My throat closed off as I ran to the window. It looked out over a bay that was nothing like the view from our old summer house. My fingers clutched at the granite counter as my heart began to race and the dizziness threatened.

Relax. Deep breaths, I told myself, inhaling slowly, breathing from my diaphragm as Margot had taught me.

It took long minutes before my pulse returned to normal and the room stopped tilting. I relaxed my grip on the counter and closed my eyes for a moment.

You knew this would happen. Every day it’s going to get easier.

One more deep breath later, I opened my eyes, feeling in control again. The panic attacks used to happen all the time in the first month after I was healed. Margot and the other healers at Westhorne had helped me learn the signs that an attack was coming on, and how to stop it. It also helped me to know my triggers, which mostly centered around my family and my old life. The life I could never go back to.

Okay, none of that.

If I’d learned one thing over the last three months, it was that dwelling on things out of my control never changed anything. It only made me sad, and I’d had enough sadness for two lifetimes.

   
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